In an act of political cowardice, Governor Jan Brewer signed state Senator Russell Pearce's police state/bigot bill SB 1070 into law, characterizing it as "another step forward in protecting the state of Arizona."
With a boycott of the state threatened and thousands gathering at the state Capitol to protest the bill, I'm sure the irony was unintended.
Indeed, the governor's staff was evidently so concerned with Brewer's safety that reporters were directed to a secure location in Phoenix, an Arizona Department of Transportation facility on the west side. Reporters had to show their credentials and driver's licenses twice to enter the building, thus giving them a little taste of what Hispanics in this state will have to go through every day now.
Brewer claimed, falsely, that the bill, which allows cops to stop people if they have "reasonable suspicion" to believe they're in the country unlawfully, does not codify racial profiling into law.
"I will not tolerate racial discrimination or racial profiling in Arizona," she claimed just before signing the bill, adding, "I worked for weeks with legislators to amend SB 1070, to strengthen its civil rights protections.
"That effort led to new language in the bill, language prohibiting law enforcement officers from `solely considering race, color, or national origin in implementing the requirements of this section.'"
Thing is, this provision has the effect of allowing racial profiling. Officers may not "solely" use race, color, or national origin, but they may use any combination of those three, like, race and color, for instance.
The Governor also announced that she's ordering AZ POST, the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, to develop training for officers on the new law. Which means, from here on out, all Arizona cops will be trained in how to racially profile.
Because if they don't do it to the pleasure of nativist extremists like Russell Pearce, then the agency they work for could be sued by any legal Arizona resident with an ax to grind.
Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon already has announced that he wants the city of Phoenix to challenge the bill in the courts. Organizations such as the Arizona ACLU and MALDEF plan to sue, seeking a federal injunction to stop the law from being enacted, as it normally would be, 90 days following the end of the legislative session.
The first hand Governor Brewer shook after signing the bill into law was that of Mark Spencer of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, who has been a vocal supporter of the law and who has transformed his police union into a full-on nativist organization.
Nearby was Russell Pearce himself, who held court before reporters, and also claimed that racial profiling would not be the result.
I took the opportunity to ask Pearce over and over again the source for some of the bogus statistics he's used as rationale for his racist piece of legislation. I was particularly interested in his claim that 50 percent of all homicides in Phoenix have been committed by illegal aliens.
Pearce could not cite a source for the stat. There's good reason for this. Both the Phoenix Police Department and the FBI have informed me that they do not retain statistics related to the immigration status of perpetrators.
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According to the Phoenix PD's stats, about half of all murders in 2008 were uncleared. So there is no way Pearce would have been able to obtain this fake factoid.
At one point Pearce told a Hispanic reporter he would not talk to her. I asked him if he didn't want to speak to the Spanish-language media because he's a racist. He walked away from me. Some press person for the governor or DPS finally shielded his retreat.
People are angry, and they should be. Pearce's bill was passed with the help of a pack of prevarications, half-truths, and twisted stats. Now racial profiling has become law in Arizona. Civil unrest may be a natural, and unfortunate, result.
(Note: Thanks to my colleague Jose Munoz for the top photo of Brewer. For more by Munoz, check out his Web site photosbyjosemunoz.com)